Humility and Truth

Posted in: Homilies

August 27, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

August 27, 2017
Matthew 16: 13-20
Fr. George Smiga

During Jesus’ ministry, there was an ongoing debate over his true identity. You can hear it in today’s gospel, as people suggest that maybe Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets come back to life again. Who Jesus was, was not clear. But also in today’s gospel, Peter figures it out. He proclaims Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God. So how was Peter able to see what everyone else was not able to see? Was he smarter than the others? Was he more holy or attentive than the rest of the disciples? I think not. I think Peter was able to discern Jesus’ true identity because he was weaker than the others, and he knew it. A couple of weeks ago, I preached on Peter’s weakness and how many times he messed things up—trying to walk on the water and sinking, setting up tents on Mount Tabor, and denying Jesus during the Passion. But what saves Peter is that when he falls, he recognizes his weakness and learns from his mistakes. This modesty, this humility on Peter’s part, is what allows him to see Jesus as the son of the living God.

There is a particular connection between modesty and truth. People who know their weakness, people who can own their failures, understand that they do not posses all the truth. They are open to listen, more able to compromise, inclined to dialogue. Precisely because they are not puffed up by their own superiority, they understand that what they know is incomplete. They realize that the ideas in their head can be revised, and that revising them is not diluting the truth but coming closer to it.

If you want to be a good parent, modesty is important. Yes, its valuable for you to set standards and expectations for your children. But when they fail, when they disappoint you, it is valuable to remember your own failings, how you fell short as a teenager.  This will allow you to be more patient and understanding. And such understanding brings you closer to what true parenting is about. If we want to be good citizens, owning our weakness is essential. As long as we imagine that our thoughts and opinions are perfect and those of others are not, political discourse devolves into hurling accusations from one side of the partisan divide to the other. But if we can admit that some of the things we think do not work, that some of our ideas can hurt as well as help, then we can take a step back and dialogue can begin. If we desire to come closer to God, humility is fundamental. As long as we approach God with all of our virtues and accomplishments, there is too much of ourselves present to see God’s face. But if we begin with our failures and our need for God’s mercy, then God can cover us with his grace and bind us closer in his love.

Peter was not afraid to admit his failings and his weakness and that allowed him to see what others could not. If we follow Peter’s example and humbly admit our limits and our mistakes, we can become more patient, more compassionate, more open. There is no shame in admitting our weakness. It can show us the truth. It can allow us to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

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